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Amazon’s New AI Patent Could Revamp Fulfillment

Amazon is incorporating more AI equipment in its distribution operations.

Last week the e-commerce tycoon secured a patent for a packing robot, which could significantly streamline its fulfillment operations in the future.

Human staff will work together with the robot to minimize the item packing process. First, a human operator loads the tray with an inventory item. A unique identifier number, such as a bar code or RFID tag, identifies the item, accessing a record that indicates the item’s specs. The robot then uses a vacuum end effector to scoop up the item, based on the weight, shape and orientation of the item. Once it grasps it, the robot then moves the item to the appropriate box for shipment.

Amazon’s AI patent comes right in line with its other fulfillment technology expansions. The e-tailer recently announced plans to develop a 900-acre delivery air hub in Hebron, Kentucky. The hub will support its Prime Air cargo fleets and add 2,000 more jobs to the 10,000 the company already supports in its Kentucky fulfillment centers. Last year, Amazon also piloted its first drone delivery in the U.K., which shorted delivery travel to 13 minutes. With the drone deliveries, Amazon aims to foster innovation in the logistics space and facilitate more sales among its global consumer base.

As retail continues to evolve, many other companies, including Cambridge Industries Group (CIG) and Hudson’s Bay Company, are using AI to speed up their logistics processes. IDC firm market research said spending on robotics hit approximately $84 billion in 2016 and it’s expected to grow at a 17 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2015 and 2019.